Parents and council clash over catchment

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Catchment battle looming

A catchment battle is looming on the boundary of East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City councils over access to one of Scotland's highest- attaining Catholic secondaries - and the final arbiter will be Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

East Renfrewshire announced plans last week which would effectively exclude all homes in Glasgow from the catchment area of St Ninian's High.

Since 1984, when the school opened under Strathclyde Regional Council, children living in certain streets in the catchment areas of two Glasgow primaries have had priority right of admission. That arrangement has continued under East Renfrewshire since local government reorganisation in 1996.

But East Renfrewshire Council claims the school is over its capacity of 1,704 pupils (its roll is 1,786) and that, by 2016, it would be 1,986 if the catchment remains the same.

School closure or catchment changes affecting any school that is over 80 per cent full have to be referred to Scottish ministers, a device introduced by the Conservative Government in the 1980s to save "popular" schools - Paisley Grammar at that time.

The situation came to a head earlier this year when East Renfrewshire Council told parents on new housing estates near St Angela's and St Vincent's primaries in Glasgow that they did not have the same priority for enrolling at the school as other families in the neighbourhood. They could make placing requests but, given that St Ninian's is overcrowded, they had no hope of being awarded a place.

Parents argued that they had bought their new homes on the understanding that they were part of the school's catchment - a stance backed by Glasgow City Council - and they fear their homes could drop in value by up to pound;20,000.

A judicial review that would have cleared up the dispute was cut short when East Renfrewshire Council backed down on the eve of the hearing and granted a place - albeit on a placing request - to a boy who was refusing to go to school at all if he could not go to St Ninian's.

Now, following a meeting of its education committee last week, the council is proposing restricting admission to St Ninian's to three of its own primary schools.

The closing date for the consultation is November 27 and the education committee is due to make a decision in January 2010 which would take effect from the start of next session.

Glasgow City Council says it, too, will have to consult the parents affected after the East Renfrewshire consultation has closed and warns that the timescale will be tight.

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